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Online Learning, Year 2: How Are Filipino High School And College Students Coping?

Online Learning, Year 2: How Are Filipino High School And College Students Coping?
Image by Thomas Park / Unsplash

The transition to online classes during the pandemic was so abrupt that Filipino teachers and students barely had time to prepare and adjust. Distance learning is far different from face-to-face schooling, and many have expressed their struggles with the system since 2020.

The pandemic in itself has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health, and adding academics to the mix can be emotionally and physically draining. More people are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. In fact, over the past year, youth suicide rates have escalated in our country. How does online learning figure in this situation?

OneLife.ph had a chat with a few students and a guidance counselor to find out.

How has online classes amid the pandemic affected your mental health?

Franczeska Catapang, 19, is a third-year Pharmacy student. She says, “Some days, I feel really sad and frustrated over particular situations while some days naman, I feel completely fine and happy,” she explains.

“It affected me to the point na I really had zero motivation to do my tasks, like, as much as I want to finish it, wala talaga. So, it was really difficult to deal with kasi with this setting, some professors expect you to submit your outputs agad-agad because they think studying at home is a lot easier than the conventional learning setting,” she adds.

Thirteen-year-old Nikole Guevarra is currently a grade 8 student. “It made me unhappy, and it also got me addicted to my phone which isn’t good for my mental health. I now spend around 12 to 14 hours on my phone and that’s not very healthy, but everything I do involves my phone so I can’t just not use it,” she shares.

Erica Malli, a registered guidance counselor, works as the counseling office head in a high school in Metro Manila. “When the pandemic started, many students experienced a great deal of adjustment. They had to learn to adjust in school, at home and with their peers. The abrupt change of systems in these particular environments affected their mental health. The most common concerns were related to anxiety and depressive symptoms and behaviors,” she says.

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How do you cope with the sadness and stress?

Distance learning has taken away the small things that used to make school more enjoyable—recess and lunch with friends, intramurals, promenades, school fairs, field trips, etc. These little breaks were a boost to one’s mental health and gave students a lot to look forward to.

Yeshaya Perez, 13, is also a grade 8 student. She shares that talking to her friends, reading books, listening to music, and playing games helped her cope. “They relieve me from the constant school tension, although sometimes I misuse them and don't manage my time well because of them.”

For Franczeska, “During the first months of the new online class setting, it was hard for me to cope with sadness and frustration to the point that I tend to cry myself to sleep since ‘yun lang din ‘yung nakasanayan kong coping mechanism. But now, I can tell na I am good at handling my emotions since I try to surround myself with positive people and do the things that I love the most.

“The things that helped me the most during these times are watching K-dramas, bonding with my family, talking to my old and newfound online friends, and also exercising, although I feel lazy [most times],” she adds.

Malli shares, “There are many ways for students to deal with bouts of sadness and depression. The most basic and I think most essential is employing preventive measures to be able to watch out for and take care of their physical health.

“Students have to sleep early, eat right, exercise enough and manage their time well when scheduling different kinds of activities such as study time, leisure time, relaxation time, etc. If these basic needs are not met, there is already a big chance that students will be up for a challenging time especially in school.”

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How can schools and teachers support the mental health of their students?

Nikole thinks if schools gave them breaks after every quarter and lessened their workload, their mental health would be a bit better.

Yeshaya and Franczeska believe that the teachers should also check in on their students from time to time.

Malli says, Schools usually provide assistance to students through preventive and responsive programs and services [that are related to mental health]. Guidance counselors are readily available to give support through counseling sessions and activities that encourage positive mental health behaviors.

“Teachers can also help by their willingness to assist students who are experiencing mental health-related difficulties—by listening to them, asking how they are, providing extensions for submission of projects and accommodations for assessments and tests.”

How can students support each other?

“Students can support each other by not pressuring one another, especially in shared tasks. Again, all we need is to be kind. Students should always lend a hand to one another since not all of us are going through the same thing, ‘di ba?” says Franczeska.

Nikole and Yeshaya suggest sharing notes and giving reminders to friends and classmates to show support. Study sessions prior to exams and activities are also very helpful.

Malli advises, “For students who are struggling with mental health concerns, I urge you to seek help from your parents, relatives you trust, teachers, counselors or mental health specialists.

“I believe in your capability to take the initial steps towards the improvement of your health. Many people are willing to help you if you will only extend your hand so they can take it and provide support for you. I also urge you all to please watch out for and monitor your daily activities, your way of life, and manner of relating with others.”

Prioritizing school, physical health, and mental well-being all at the same time is no joke. Let’s all check in on our friends and loved ones from time to time, and never hesitate to ask for help when you need it. You are not alone.

Your feelings are valid. You are valid. And there is no shame in asking for help.

If you need someone to listen, call the National Mental Health Crisis Hotlines at 0917-899-8727, (02) 7989-8727 or 1553 (toll-free landline) anytime, 24/7.

You may also call hotlines 0917-8001123 or (02) 8893-7603 for free telephone counseling in the Philippines.

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